Monday, December 31, 2012

NYE in Spain...Twelve Grapes, Twelve Wishes



Perhaps the most famous of all Spanish holiday traditions is the New Year's Eve tradition of Las doce uvas de la suerte or The Twelve Grapes of Luck. With each chime of midnight (based on the clock tower in Puerto del Sol in Madrid), Spaniards eat one grape with the beat of each bell. This is said to promise good luck into the new year.

And for many Spaniards and gringas (like me) alike, each grape eaten encompasses a wish or hope for the new year.

Here in the States, where time is counted in seconds, it's tough to properly space out your grape consumption, but as long as you eat your last grape before 12:01, you should be good to go.

Think about your twelve wishes. Are they for you? For your family? For the world? Visualize your perfect 2013.



As 2012 is washed away, and 2013 takes its place, what changes will you make to create a better life for yourself? For your family? For our world?

Happy New Year, friends. Wishing you much joy in 2013 and always.

Muchos besos.



Friday, December 28, 2012

Wedding Dress Shopping: Friday Flashback

Happy Friday, friends!

One year ago today, I ventured out with my mom on a most memorable rite of passage. . . the search for my wedding dress.

And on this day, one year ago, I found it.


I said yes to the dress.

 
And I would again.
 
 
 
 
 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yum! Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies!


A snowy day here in New England means some shoveling and some baking. Lucky for me, that means some much needed, post-holiday exercise and a sugar-free (and butter-free) treat.

I used Hershey's sugar-free chocolate chips (I get them at Walmart) and brown and white Splenda. The recipe is on the back of the bag. The recipe calls for butter, but I used Smart Balance sticks. And you could probably sub out some of the flour and add something like oatmeal. I will definitely try that next time.

Overall, the cookies are delicious. They're not overly sweet. They hold their shape; they don't spread and flatten. I will definitely make these again, but experiment a bit and try to make them with less flour and maybe add some PB2 for some low-fat, peanuty flavor and some extra protein.


Two thumbs up for this girl . . .and hubs loves them too. A win-win.

7 Things x 2013

If building a new habit for 30 days is not your thing, check out this site. My love for my husband, my love of lists and my love of the New Year have collided. The Day 0 Project is a list-lover's personal nirvana, or, I guess, Kryptonite, depending on how you look at it. In addition to their 101 Things in 1001 Days, they have a resolution list, 7 Things x 2013.

Here's how it works. You fill in the blank with your personal to-do list:

1. Learn how to . . .
2. Start . . . .
3. Stop . . .
4. Take a vacation to . . .
5. Find . . . .
6. Try . . . .
7. Be more . . .


Now, are you up for a love challenge? You could mix it up a bit . . .

1. Learn how to . . .cook my partner's favorite comfort food.

2. Start . . . .a random act of romance once a week or once a day.

3. Stop . . .the self doubt. . . .rock your inner sex goddess/god and play!

4. Take a vacation to . . . the first place you went on a date.

5. Find . . . at least 30 minutes each day to talk face to face to your partner. No texting. No tv. No phones. No computers. No interruption.

6. Try . . .something new in the bedroom. Spice it up. Start small or go big. Break out of the norm and see what happens.

7. Be more . . .appreciative of what your partner does right. It's easy to see what irritates us, but what does he or she do that makes you smile? Makes your knees go weak? Make you feel loved?


The possibilities are endless. We made it past the end of the world. . . what a gift. Not everyone made it; not because of the Mayans, but because his or her life was cut too short. This is your time. This is your year. Make 2013 a year to remember. You're worth it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2013...the 30 Day Challenge




Christmas is behind us once again. I can't say that I am terribly disappointed. Christmas is ok, but New Year's is what I am really excited about. It's a new start. A rebirth. Reinvention. Anything you want it to be. . . it's a blank page.

Not sure where to start? Start here . . .


Let's make 2013 your year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Five . . .Thinking about Christmas

It's the Friday before Christmas. Today, December 21st, is the solstice, the end of the Mayan calendar and the longest night of the year. And we're still here.


But now, the final pre-holiday weekend crunch arrives. And it's today, my last day before the holiday break, when I can truly start to think about Christmas.

When I think of Christmas I think of . . .

1. Ornaments

After my husband and I began dating, I began collecting Christmas ornaments from the places we traveled. We now have a nice assortment of mementos from places we explored on weekend getaways, as well as from grand locales around the world. We also have milestone ornaments, like for our first Christmas together (and one for every year thereafter) and now that we're married, special "Just Married" ornaments.  We continue to build our collection each year because Christmas is a nice occasion to recall and reflect on the amazing life we have been blessed to live.



2. Tourtiere

Christmas Eve isn't Christmas Eve without pork pie. Some call it tourtiere; others call it meat pie. Regardless of the name or the inclusion of potatoes, this flavorful treat warms the hearts and fills the bellies of French Canadians and their families every year.


3. Rockefeller Center


Yes, there are millions of people. Yes, it's cold. And yes, the lines to skate at Rockefeller Center seem eternal. But, this pilgrimage makes it worth the wait. If you're lucky enough to score tickets, you can make a weekend out of it and see the Rockettes as well. And if you're too far from the Big Apple, play tourist in your own city and see the best of what home has to offer.


4. Charlie Brown's Christmas


When I hear Vince Guaraldi, I know it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Everyone has a favorite, and for me, it's Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. 

The dance party is fabulous! What's your stock dance move?


5. A Christmas Carol
Whether we read it or watch it, it's hard to beat Dickens' classic.



Merry Christmas, friends! God bless us, everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fear? Yup . . .It's All Good

I'm leading a blessed life. I have a wonderful husband who is my best friend and  my true soul mate, as well as my life partner. I have a great family, a job I love and friends I adore. I have the opportunity to become well educated, and I have some amazing opportunities to travel.

Yes, I have been blessed. But some of these blessings have resulted from risk. And with risk comes fear.

Much to the dismay of my mother, I've always been the one to test the limits on what she would consider normal behavior.

Whether it be skydiving, shark cage diving, dog sledding, embarking on trans-Atlantic solo travel, or even tackling major weight loss . . . fear may have always been there.

But so what?

What's the alternative, I would ask? 

 
At times, fear of unknown can be a tough obstacle to overcome. But life is so precious, so short . . .why live with what ifs? 

Yes, it's scary. But so is regret.

Start small.

Venture away for the weekend. Explore your capital city. Get a passport. Roam as much as time and money allows. Try a new gym class, a cooking class, a dance class, or try to learn a new language.

Every day is a new opportunity. Make it yours.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gift Guide: Travel Lover's Must Haves

This is it . . .crunch time. If you have a travel lover on your list and you're stumped for what to get, here's five great last minute gift ideas that will work well.

For their tree . . .a passport ornament.


For their rainy weekends at home . .  .travel inspired movies like . . .



 
 
Or Before Sunrise (Vienna), Before Sunset (Paris), Under the Tuscan Sun, Vicki Christina Barcelona, To Rome with Love, or even Eat, Pray Love. There are so many flicks to feed the wanderlust. Escape, even if only for a couple of hours.
 


For the suitcase . . .packing cubes

For the hostel, or questionable hotel . . .a sleep sack


For when you're not sure about that last shirt or pair of jeans . . .a luggage scale


 And finally . . .one extra for good measure . . . for feeding the perpetual wanderlust . ..  



 Salud!

Date Night . . .Kenny G?

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love went with me . . to hear, not four colly birds, but one other lovely song bird . . .Kenny G.

What was billed as a holiday show, in reality, turned into an musical improv night set to the soundtrack of the Kenny G classics, peppered with only a few holiday classics.



The weather outside was frightful, but the inside was steamy with hot sax. It was a good night.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Remembering the Dreamer: John Lennon in A Coruña

This week, on December 8th, marked the 32nd anniversary of the death of John Lennon. 

Here's a picture of a monument to Lennon in coastal A Coruña, Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain.

 





There are dreamers everywhere.

Here's to the dreamer.
 

On the first date of Christmas . . .

When you don't have children, creating holiday traditions that don't involve kids can be a challenge. We may not be involved in a manic mission for toys, or scouring the house for the latest location of the stealthy Elf on the Shelf, but nonetheless, we look forward to honoring the winter holidays with a little romantic playtime of our own.

And so begins the Dates of Christmas.

Technically, the 12 Days of Christmas falls after the Christmas holiday, and for those of Latin heritage, like my husband, the 12 days build to the Día de los Tres Reyes Magos or Three Kings Day  . . .the Epiphany for his gringa wife.

But this American girl is craving the excitement that builds toward the Christmas holiday.

And so we begin. Now, here's a disclaimer . . .this is in no way a pledge to craftily devise a romantic date for twelve consecutive nights. If I did not work outside the home, and if the planets perfectly aligned and life occured as perfectly as I planned, then maybe . . .but life is not perfect. We do the best we can. And so, on this first date of Christmas, I cooked.

The first day of Christmas may have delivered a partridge in a pear tree, but for my Cariño, this first romantic date of Christmas consisted of muchos besos (many kisses) and dinner for two--chicken with pears and goat cheese.


This was so fast and easy and yummy. Forgive my Droid photo. I'll get better at this . . . Here's what you do.

Chicken with Pears & Goat Cheese
  • BS Chicken Breasts (That's boneless, skinless BTW) I split them to make them thinner. You could use tenderloins or even chop it into nugget size pieces. This also works well with thinly sliced pork chops.
  • Seasoned flour*
  • 2 Ripe Pears, chopped. You could apples as well. But the pear . . . you know . .  . it fits the pear tree motif.
  • One medium onion, chopped (if you like onion)
  • Splash of OJ (you could use stock or broth if you want--it's just to help make a bit of a sauce)
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese (4-8 oz)
  • Slivered or Sliced  Raw Almonds (2-3 oz.)

1. *Mix some flour with salt and pepper to taste. I also sprinkled in cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg, some tarragon and some thyme.

2. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture. You could coat with egg first if you want. It makes it more like a cutlet. Your choice.

3. Use a bit of olive oil, or spray . . .your choice. Brown the chicken and then put it on a plate for a bit.

4.  Sweat out your onion. Add your fruit. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the splash of OJ. Add your chicken back in. Let it simmer about 15 minutes, or until it's all done.

5. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

6. While that's simmering, put dry almonds in a dry skillet. Put heat on medium and shake nuts around to toast. Be careful; they can get away from you quickly and when it's too late, it's too late. They're gone.

7. Sprinkle your perfectly toasted nuts over the top and voila!

Tonight, I also had some leftover spinach, so I mixed that in with the fruit while it was cooking. I served mine with couscous. Quinoa works well too. Or rice. Whatever you like.

Bon provecho!




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12.12.12

12.12.12 . . .It's Tom Brady Day!

And for everyone else, Patriots fans and non-fans alike, it's a day for wishes.

Today at 12:12 p.m. on 12.12.12, hopefuls around the world closed their eyes and wished their little hearts out. Myself included.

But after I emerged from my wish-induced bliss, it got me thinking. How is a wish different from something I can achieve for myself? And why am I leaving my wishes, what my heart desires most, to a hopeful strike of good luck?



Some people wish for the unattainable. Maybe it's something that is just not possible or plausible, either medically, financially or otherwise.

But for many of us, we wish for all that our heart desires. And when you start to break that down, how much of what we desire is within our own control?

And if it is within our own control, how do we go about achieving it? Do we work for it or do we leave it to the wish granters of the universe, who may magically deliver it to our front door?

I say, go for it. Grab that wish by the horns and show it who's boss.

Make a list. What are your wishes?

Break that down. What do you want now? What can you do this week? This month? This year? Within five years? Before you make your celestial transfer? (as my dad would say)

Pick one at a time. Plan your action steps. One step at a time. One wish at a time.

Clearly, it would be grand for the universe to deliver all that our hearts desire, but more often than not, we're going to have to help the universe along.

On this 12th day of the 12th month in the 12th year of the millennium, what can YOU do to bring about all your own heart's desires?

And then on the next 12:12 or 11:11 or your lucky number of choice, instead of making a wish for the seemingly impossible, give thanks to the universe for the power you have within yourself to make your own wishes come true.

Happy 12.12.12.